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After reading the recent post on the always fatal prion disease known as "chronic wasting disease" spreading in wild deer and elk in the U.S., a reader asked whether chronic wasting disease (CWD) is also found in cattle. Or whether it could cross over to cattle, and so wind up in the beef we eat. Excellent question.

The studies and medical discussions that I read all agreed that: chronic wasting disease is only found in cervids - deer, elk, reindeer, and moose. Medical opinion is that there is a species barrier, a "thin molecular barrier" preventing crossing over of the prion disease to cattle and humans. Several studies that specifically looked at this issue back this up. Whew, what a relief!

A 2017 study by Canadian researchers reviewed 23 studies looking at "transmissibility" of CWD to humans. They did not find any evidence of transmission of CWD prions to humans in the U.S or Canada, and no evidence supporting the possibility of transmission of CWD prions to humans. However, they did not rule out the possibility that a CWD prion more readily transmissible to humans could emerge over time given sufficiently extensive human exposure, or if a variation in CWD prion strains develops.

A good study by Univ. of Wyoming researchers actually had deer sick with CWD and healthy cattle living side by side for 10 years - sharing food, water, paddocks, and with constant interaction. Another group of 12 calves were given orally (by mouth) 45 g of prion tissue from CWD infected deer and kept indoors (2 per room) in an isolation building after that point. (Note that eating only 1 g of such prion tissue makes deer sick with CWD). There was also a healthy control group not exposed to CWD in any way. All brains were examined after death - and all cattle brains were normal.

Interestingly, this 2018 study did mention that if CWD prion material is injected into cattle brains (which was done in some other studies), then they do go on to develop CWD - but that is not how cattle would be exposed to it naturally. Which is why they did the study trying to mimic natural conditions in which any potential transmission could occur - and found no transmission of CWD.

But...scientists are concerned with possible transmission of CWD prions to humans occurring at some point, for example if variation in CWD prion strains develops. Keep in mind that CWD is spreading year by year throughout the US (which should be of special concern to hunters).  There are many, many questions at this point.

Excerpts from Elizabeth S. Williams et al. (2018) in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases: CATTLE (BOS TAURUS) RESIST CHRONIC WASTING DISEASE FOLLOWING ORAL INOCULATION CHALLENGE OR TEN YEARS' NATURAL EXPOSURE IN CONTAMINATED ENVIRONMENTS

Abstract: We conducted a 10-yr study to establish whether chronic wasting disease (CWD) was readily transmissible to domestic cattle (Bos taurus) following oral inoculation or by cohousing cattle with captive cervids in outdoor research facilities where CWD was enzootic.  ...continue reading "Chronic Wasting Disease Does Not Spread to Cattle and Humans"

Drawing of colon seen from front (the appendix is colored red). Credit: Wikipedia.

What a difference a few years makes in medical opinion in how appendicitis should be treated! Not routinely with surgery (appendectomy), but trying a course of antibiotics first.

Researchers from Duke University Medical Center reviewed studies and found that antibiotics successfully treat up to 70% of uncomplicated appendicitis cases. For this reason the researchers state that antibiotics should be tried first in uncomplicated appendicitis cases. And if needed (e.g., if there are recurrences of appendicitis) surgery can be done.

Back in 2015 a Finnish study found that antibiotics alone can treat the majority of cases of uncomplicated appendicitis in adults. No need for surgery. That same year another study was published finding antibiotics to be a successful treatment for uncomplicated appendicitis in children - and that at one year follow-up 75.6% of the antibiotics group had not had any recurrences of appendicitis.

This is a major shift in how to treat an ailment, and it happened quickly. Most people with appendicitis would definitely (probably) opt for a course of antibiotics rather than surgery and see if that works..

From Science Daily: Antibiotics can be first-line therapy for uncomplicated appendicitis cases

With numerous recent studies demonstrating that antibiotics work as well as surgery for most uncomplicated appendicitis cases, the non-surgical approach can now be considered a routine option, according to a review article in JAMA.  ...continue reading "Treating Appendicitis With Antibiotics"

General Sherman, a giant sequoia tree. Credit: Wikipedia, Kimon Berlin

Trees that are several thousand years old in California's Sequoia National Park are in danger of being destroyed in this month's wildfires. Things are currently so bad that the base of some of the world's largest trees are being wrapped in aluminum fire-resistant blankets.

The trees being wrapped are giant sequoias, and the largest tree of all is called General Sherman. This tree is about 2200 to 2700 years old, 275 feet tall, over 36 feet in diameter at the base, and with a circumference of 102.6 at the base. (Almost as tall as the Statue of Liberty!).

Giant sequoia trees are adapted to fire, but both drought conditions and fires are getting more intense (climate change!) and can overwhelm them. Last year's Castle Fire destroyed an estimated 7500 to 10,600 mature giant sequoia trees that ranged in age from hundreds to 3000 years old. This is about 10 to 14% of these trees on Earth!

Giant sequoia base wrapped in fire-proof blanket. Credit: National Park Service, Sept. 16, 2021

From The Guardian: World’s largest tree wrapped in fire-resistant blanket as California blaze creeps closer

As flames crept closer to California’s cherished sequoia trees firefighters took an unusual step to protect them, wrapping the giant bases in fire-resistant blankets.

The shiny material that helps quell flames, commonly used to protect structures, is rarely applied to natural features, but crews fighting the KNP Complex fire in the Sequoia national park said they are doing everything possible to protect the iconic trees. ...continue reading "Giant Sequoia Trees Wrapped In Fire Resistant Blankets"

Congratulations America! The contiguous (lower 48 states) United States just had its hottest summer ever! This is not something to brag about, but a taste of coming attractions due to climate change. This year we've had heat wave after heat wave, drought in the west, humid tropical-type heat in the east, hurricanes, tornadoes, tropical storms, and so on. Whew...

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a report on Thursday pointing out that for the 2021 meteorological summer (June, July, August) the average temperature in the lower 48 states of the U.S. was 74.0 degrees F (2.6 degrees above average). This exceeds even the record heat of the 1936 Dust Bowl Summer.

Bottom line: We need to deal with climate change. Because otherwise the heat and extreme weather will just get worse and worse and worse.

Excerpts from Weather Underground: Summer 2021 Was Hottest on Record in the Contiguous U.S., NOAA Says

Four of the five hottest contiguous U.S. summers have now happened in the past 11 years.

Regardless of where it ends up on the list, summer 2021 will continue the long-term trend from climate change.

Eight of the nation's top 10 warmest summers have occurred in this century, according to NOAA. Only two summers in the 21st century were cooler than average – 2004 and 2009.

Since 1970, much of the U.S. has seen a warmer trend in summer, according to an analysis from Climate Central. This is particularly the case from Texas to the West and also in much of the East from Florida to Michigan to New England.

Excerpt from NOAA: Summer 2021 neck and neck with Dust Bowl summer for hottest on record

Last month brought Hurricane Ida, numerous wildfires and devastating floods, capping off a summer of record heat and rainfall for many states throughout the country.

It's finally over. One hundred years after leaded gasoline was first introduced, it is finally no longer used in automobiles and road vehicles anywhere in the world. Algeria was the last country to use leaded gas (it had stockpiles of it and wanted to use it up), and in July 2021 they made the switch to unleaded gas. Finally.

Tetraethyl lead was initially added to gas to boost engine performance, but numerous studies for years showed that the lead was harmful to health and the environment (it's still in soil and dust). A partial list of harms to human health: heart disease, strokes, cancer, chronic disease, lower IQ in children, brain damage (it's neurotoxic), lower impulse control. Scientists now feel that there is NO safe lead level - that all lead exposure causes harm.

Of course, the lead industry fought hard and dirty to keep lead in gas (and other products such as paint), but even so leaded gas for cars was eventually banned in the US (in 1990s). A 2011 study estimated that the phaseout of leaded gas increased global GDP by 4% or $2.4 trillion, raised IQs, lowered crime, and prevented 1.2 million early deaths per year.

However, while leaded gas is now allowed to be sold for vehicles in the US, lead is still allowed to be used in aviation fuel for aircraft. Eh...

Excerpts from VOX: One of the worst public health dangers of the past century has finally been eradicated

On Monday, the United Nations announced an environmental and public health milestone: the end of the use of leaded gasoline in automobiles and road vehicles worldwide. ...continue reading "Leaded Gas For Cars Is No Longer Being Used Anywhere In the World"

Finally, finally...  the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is banning the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos on food crops. This is important because we get exposed to the pesticide various ways, but especially from pesticide residues on food. This pesticide should have been banned years ago for the reason that it is dangerous for children - has neurological effects and lowers IQ.

Why did the EPA finally ban it? Back in 1999 the EPA banned “residential” uses of chlorpyrifos, of course with lots of exceptions. Finally, in 2017 the EPA was going to ban it for food use (e.g. crops)  - this was recommended by EPA's own scientists due to huge amounts of research showing harm.

But that decision was reversed by the incoming Trump administration (business interests first!). Of course, that business interests of the pesticide industry come first is not surprising and has been going on for years - it only got worse during the Trump administration.

This year the EPA was forced into the decision banning chlorpyrifos by a court order. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco in its ruling in May, 2021said, “The EPA has had nearly 14 years to publish a legally sufficient response to the 2007 Petition [filed by environmental and farmworker groups].” The court continued, “During that time, the EPA’s egregious delay exposed a generation of American children to unsafe levels of chlorpyrifos.”

What exactly is chlorpyrifos? It is an organophosphate insecticide that is currently registered for use on a range of food crops, golf courses, and for public health mosquito control (in cases of mosquito-borne diseases). It is highly acutely toxic.

It is chronic low level exposure (typically through residues on food) that is especially harmful - especially to pregnant women, the developing fetus, and children. In utero exposures to chlorpyrifos can impair a child’s learning ability and increase risk of developmental delays, ADHD, and is associated with IQs that are up to 7 points lower than those with little or no chlorpyrifos exposure.

How to avoid toxic pesticides in foods: Eat organic foods as much as possible. Many pesticide levels (e.g. glyphosate and chlorpyrifos) will rapidly decrease - within a week. Pesticide residues can be measured in the blood and urine.

From AP news: EPA bans pesticide linked to health problems in children

The Biden administration said Wednesday it was banning use of chlorpyrifos, a widely used pesticide long targeted by environmentalists, on food crops because it poses risks to children and farm workers. ...continue reading "A Dangerous Pesticide Will Finally Be Banned On Food Crops"